One of the most powerful tools in a marketer's arsenal is programmatic SEO, a technology-driven approach to search engine optimization that can help businesses achieve greater visibility and drive more traffic to their websites.
Whether you're a small startup or a large enterprise, programmatic SEO can provide significant benefits that can help you reach your marketing goals and drive long-term growth.
In this article, we'll explore what programmatic SEO is, how it works, and how it can help your business stand out in a crowded online marketplace.
What Is Programmatic SEO (Programmatic Search Engine Optimization)?
Programmatic SEO is an SEO technique that focuses on publishing a large number of automatically generated web pages that target a group of keywords sharing a similar theme.
One popular example of programmatic SEO is TripAdvisor. If you’re a traveler, there’s a good chance you’ve encountered TripAdvisor while planning your vacations.
TripAdvisor uses programmatic SEO to target long-tail keywords that share the same head or main terms. For instance, a user searching for “best attractions in X city” will almost always see a TripAdvisor page in the top SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages), regardless of the city they add to the query.
The purpose of this is to reach as many users as possible by targeting all variants of the keywords with tailored content that matches the search intent. This is made possible with TripAdvisor’s extensive travel database that contains information about attractions all over the world.
And while the content of an automatically generated page can be less engaging and of generally lower quality than manually created content, it serves the purpose and provides a decent user experience for people looking for curated lists and bite-sized information.
Advantages of Programmatic SEO for Your Business
Here are some of the benefits programmatic SEO brings to your business:
A programmatic SEO strategy can help you develop strong online visibility and maintain business continuity.
By ensuring that you can reach your audience online, your business is less likely to be severely impacted by unusual events like pandemics, natural disasters, and warfare.
Since programmatic SEO relies on automatically generated content, scaling your content marketing and SEO efforts is made easier. Your content team won’t have to waste countless hours creating hundreds or thousands of pages that target keywords sharing the same theme and intent.
Fast Time to Market
Creating large amounts of automatically generated pages is much less time-consuming than having to write every piece of content from scratch. This enables you to deploy your landing pages and make them available to your prospects faster.
In addition, you can manually modify multiple programmatic pages at the same time to add updates and new content.
A Step-by-Step Approach to Programmatic SEO
Here’s how to implement programmatic SEO on your website:
Find Your Head Terms
The head term represents the main theme of the search queries you want to target. Some examples of a head term include:
- “Vegan restaurants in X city”
- “Google Sheets X integration”
- “Average weather in X city in Y Month”
The head term here is the one or two words that precede the modifier term (more on that later). Targeting head terms in your keyword research process may seem like a good idea especially since they have a significantly high search volume and a good traffic potential.
However, head terms, on their own, may not be relevant to your content, and won’t bring you targeted traffic with transactional intent. Not to mention, the competition for head terms in the SERPs is often hard to challenge.
That’s where modifiers come in to save the day.
Add Modifiers to Target Potential Long Tail Keywords
Modifiers are keywords that users add to their specific search queries along with the head terms. They’re used to add context to the search query and make it more specific.
Combining head terms with modifiers creates what’s known in the world of SEO as “long tail keywords”.
A long-tail keyword typically includes more words than a short-tail or primary keyword. They often have a smaller search volume than primary keywords, but they’re much more specific and give the impression that the user “knows what they’re looking for”.
Generally speaking, there are two types of modifiers: primary modifiers and secondary modifiers.
Primary modifiers can significantly change the context of the search term and put it in a whole new category. For instance, a primary modifier for the head term “car” could be “Italian cars”.
Secondary modifiers, on the other hand, often just add more context to the head term. One example is modifying the head term “restaurants” to “restaurants near me”.
Identify and Analyze Your Competition
Once you’ve created a list of long-tail keywords to target, search for them on Google to learn which websites have claimed the top-ranking spots in the search results for these keywords.
This will help you identify who your competitors are. Once you’ve collected a few names, start analyzing each competitor with tools like SEMRush and Ahrefs. The tools will give you an in-depth overview of the website’s SEO performance, including the number of keywords it ranks for, estimated traffic, domain authority and value, and the number and quality of backlinks that point to it.
So why is this step important? Well, it’s simple: you won’t be able to rank for any keywords using programmatic SEO if you don’t know who your competitors are and what they’re doing.
The more fierce the competition is for a given set of keywords, the harder it’ll be for you to rank for them.
Create Landing Pages at Scale
Now onto the final step: the actual process of designing, generating, and publishing your pages.
There are many pitfalls here that you’d want to avoid here. The first one is thin content.
Thin content is defined as content that lacks depth and expertise. In other words, it’s content that doesn't provide enough information on the topic the user is searching for, leaving them no choice but to leave the page and look for the missing information elsewhere.
Another common issue with automatically generated pages is doorway pages. A doorway page only exists to redirect the user to a totally different page that has nothing to do with the query they searched for. Doorway pages are flagged by search engines and may result in a manual penalty for your website.
The best practice when creating landing pages is to put the user’s search intent in mind. Why is the user searching for that particular keyword? What do they expect to find when they visit your website? How will you help them solve their problem or find the information they need without making them leave your website and check out the other sources?
For example, if a user is searching for “Italian restaurants near me”, your landing page should give them a list of Italian restaurants in their region, their menus, reviews, ratings, and contact numbers; no more, no less.
It’s also important to internally link related pages. This will enhance the user experience and make the user spend more time on your website.
Tips to Make the Most Out of Programmatic SEO
Programmatic SEO, when done right, can bring your website large amounts of targeted traffic that converts. Here are some tips to ensure the success of your programmatic SEO efforts:
- Add an XML sitemap to your website that includes all of your recently generated pages and submit it to Google Search Console
- Test multiple iterations of your page design to learn which design drives the best results (A/B testing)
- Stay on top of common programmatic SEO issues such as duplicate content, redirects, and 404s. You can track these on Google Search Console
- Avoid exceeding your crawl budget by large margins to ensure that all your pages get crawled and indexed on Google as quickly as possible
- Ensure that your website’s host can accommodate the huge amounts of pages you’ll create, and of course, the potential amount of traffic they could bring
- Keep track of key metrics and KPIs using Google Analytics
- Create pages that contain authoritative and quality content along with your automatically generated pages
Challenges in Implementing Programmatic SEO
Some common issues that you might face when implementing Programmatic SEO on your website are:
Automatically generating pages with the same text snippets may cause duplicate content, which affects the indexation of your pages. This can be tackled by ensuring that the data collected in the database is accurate and high quality.
Exceeding Your Crawl Budget
Publishing hundreds or thousands of pages quickly may cause slow indexing due to exceeding the crawl budget. Since Google’s resources are limited, each website only gets a limited number of crawls. You can speed up indexing by creating sitemaps, dealing with redirect loops, and adding internal links.
Low-Quality or Thin Content
If the generated landing pages do not have enough content and/or the page content is not of high quality, it causes various indexing and ranking-related issues. To avoid this, create content that ultimately solves the user's problem and helps them find what they visited your website for.
Keyword cannibalization is targeting the same keyword or closely related keywords with more than one page. Doing this may negatively impact your search rankings as the search engine’s algorithms won’t be able to decide which page to rank higher.
Deleting the less-important pages can help fix this.
An orphaned page is a page with no internal links pointing to it. With so many pages created using programmatic SEO, it’s easy to miss some pages when creating internal links. A good website link hierarchy will help you prevent this problem.
By leveraging advanced data analysis and automation tools, programmatic SEO allows businesses to optimize their website content and improve their online presence in a way that’s both efficient and effective.
So, if you haven't already, it's time to start exploring the benefits of programmatic SEO for your business today!
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